Our Karachi

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Chapter 3

After taking my last class, I once again returned to my office, actually nor I, neither my students had enjoyed that lecture, I was in agitating state of mind, worried about Samreen, she was receiving dire threats from quite some time for her activities at FTS. I was about to sit on the chair in my office, when 45 years old Bengali office attendant Akram having a goatee beard on his chin entered the office and putting a business card before me said:

“Sir you have visitors.”

“Who is he?” I asked releasing a cool breath.

“He said his name is Abdul Aziz,” Akram replied.

“Alright send him in,” I said, he went out, Akram is amongst those people who fell in love with Karachi, and because of that love he was accused of treason with his entire nation during 1971 Indo-Pak war, at that time he was just nineteen years old young lad and had just married, the Bengalis had announced to leave Pakistan and have their own independent country, that was the unique event of history, never in history had happened that a majority was being oppressed by minority, history had never witnessed before that majority crying for their rights from minority, and then Indian army had crossed the international border of Pakistan, though there was chaos everywhere but Bengalis living in West Pakistan were facing most hardships at the hands of their fellow Muslims, Islam was unable to unite dark skinned Bengali Muslims with fair skinned Punjabi Muslims, Akram’s family tried to escape to Chittagong from Karachi, but he refused his family telling that only death could separate him from Karachi, his aged father asked to leave Karachi, now they won’t tolerate any Bengali here, despite of all that Akram refused to leave his beloved city, it was a dark horrifying night of October, Akram’s entire family left or Chittagong including his wife, he protested but no one listened to him and was left alone, there was an air strike, our beloved Karachi was on fire, the fighting jets were flaying in the dark Karachi sky, Akram sat in one corner of empty house, Akram was feeling pain of loneliness and thought: what is achieved from wars....a river of blood and rotten flesh of human beings, suddenly he heard a knock at the main door of his house, he walked to the door and opened, he saw his two brothers-in-law standing before him:

“You traitor,” screamed the elder brother-in-law pulling a gun from his belt, Akram pushed them back and tried to escape in darkness, two bullets were fired one after the other, Akram was hit in his right leg, his brothers-in-law ran away leaving him lying in the street like a starry dog, when the curfew was pulled, some neighbor brought him to local hospital, because of bleeding he remained unconscious for three days, and then found himself laying in white sheets of some government owned hospital of Karachi, though this war had taken everything from him, still he was happy to be in Karachi, since then Akram walks with a limping leg. Once he had told me a story of 1971 war and how Bengalis were mistreated, he told me about how his family members that were still in East Pakistan joined the Mukhti-Bahani… He had come to my apartment to assist me in my shifting and narrated the story:

“0900 hours at morning, early days of November, cold and shiver in streets, chilly winter breeze had started and in few mountainous areas snowfall had been reported, smoke was coming out from every part of human body, as anyone spoke smoke came out with the words. Captain Saladin a Lahori by birth was ordered to go to East Pakistan; he was young, tall, dark and handsome with almond eyes and short hair cut in army style. The captain was ordered to join the camp in East Pakistan and was strictly told to disguise himself and behave as a common man doing research on Bengali culture, but actually he was going to perform espionage duties finding out Bengali rebels and reporting to the GHQ. One blunder done by some crazy men both in uniform and without uniform was now causing a serious damage. India on the other hand was threatening and infiltrating in domestic affairs of Pakistan. Though they had their own part of Bengal with Calcutta, and Punjab with Amritsar; yet they wanted to have drinks at Lahore Gymkhana under their tricolor. Islam the ground on which this country’s foundation was laid seemed no more good enough to keep five different nations: the Sindhis, Bengalis, Baloch, Pathans, and Punjabis united anymore, and rebel especially in Sindh and Bengal started as “One Unit” was imposed by Ayub to counter one province by demolishing identities of four different provinces with different languages, culture, trends, traditions, civilization and literature.

Dhaka was slipping out of hands by every passing minute, now it wasn’t only problem of Bengal’s politicians but its middle-class also stood up and chanted slogans for freedom. Information had reached Yahya, the then ruler who was having his afternoon drink at Karachi, he received a wire stating:

“A group of Bengali students is going to protest against ruthless massacre of their fellow students.”

“Crush them under your boots” Yahya sipping from his whisky had ordered arrogantly.

In Sindh student groups standing for their Bengali friends chanted in streets of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, and other cities:

“What is the meaning of Pakistan?” and the procession used to shout as loudly as possible:

“Hanging, lashing and Martial Law…..” Instead of saying meaning of Pakistan is ’Laillaha illalah.’

As Captain Saladin received orders he left for East Pakistan. He was a son of retired bureaucrat the only patriotic and loyal class of the country, questioning such Punjabi bureaucrats and establishment in Pakistan was as though questioning from God Himself! On his way to Dhaka Saladin heard people crying:

“Save the country….. Please for God’s sake save the country……” Reaching the railway station full of angry crowd two junior officers in civilian dress carried him away to barracks in open army jeep. There were arrests, interrogations, many nationalist politicians were thrown in jails especially at “Kot Lakhpat” one of the famous torture cells. Saladin reached the barrack and reported to his C.O, a fat potbellied, short heightened Punjabi brigadier.

“Captain Saladin reporting sir;” he said with a salute as his right boot made harsh sound after hitting the ground. The C.O took up his eyes from the file and stared the new comer.

“I’ve been given orders to join this part of our country.”

“Welcome officer,” the C.O spoke in thick voice, he seemed worried about things.

“Thank you sir,” Saladin replied standing attentive.

“You know;” the potbellied brigadier said looking back in the file: “the situation here is going to worst degree you have to keep your eyes open always,” and then closing the file threw it to

Saladin’s side at table.

“Our intelligentsia has;” he said: “reported that there are foreign agents helping the traitors, find them out,” and after a little pause moving the round stone paper weight on table said: “this file will help you.”

“Sir,” Saladin said leaning towards the table and picking up the file. “You may leave now,” the C.O ordered him.

“Sir,” he putting the file under his armpit saluted in enthusiasm and went out from the white walled room with dim lights. Saladin knew he had to work as an undercover agent. He rented a single room flat in the heart of the city; Bengal was on fire while the national TV and radio played Noorjehan’s:

’Aey wataan Kay Sajilay Jawanoon,

Meray Nagmay Tumharay Liyea Hain.” To boast up the moral of soldiers at battlefield as it was during the 1965 war. But common people were angry now, most Bengalis were cursing the day.

When half of Bengal was given to this side, Jinnah’s Pakistan was in serious trouble, and the troublemakers were few of Jinnah’s Pakistanis. Few people realized that Bengalis were culturally different from the rest. But so were the Sindhis from Punjabis and Balochs from Pathans. It was only Bengal that stood up against discriminatory behavior against its language and race.

At the building that was old and electric wires touched heads of people while coming up and downstairs, most of the wooden doors were termite eaten, while concrete from rooftop fell in pieces from time to time. Saladin introduced himself as a researcher in his neighborhood. Most of the times his sleep at morning was disturbed by the sound of musical instruments and singing part of rich Bengali culture, every day he was awoken by voices of dark skinned Bengali ladies singing their traditional songs.

“This is ridiculous;” he used to cry to himself standing in the open window and facing the street filled with crowd: “people start their day in name of Allah, and these devils start with singing. May all of them go to hell.” The locals used to ignore him, then he started to put cotton in his ears to avoid the noise but it was irresistible. With cup of morning tea in his hand he used sit in the wing staring at women of all shapes and sizes walking here and there in saris, men rushing to their work, children enjoying winter vacation playing cricket in streets, yet there was tension and the news bulletins only added fuel to the fire, everyday leaders of East Pakistan made speeches in their funny language. For three days Saladin found no one to speak in whole area, the only thing he was able to do was to turn on his transistor and listen high spirited songs of Noorjehan.

The statement: “Pakistan is going through most critical phase of its history, we must unite as a nation” never bored people like him. He hadn’t found any suspicious person yet, hardly anyone talked about politics, or against West Pakistan, or even about rights of Bengalis in this neighborhood. From the open wooden window of his apartment he’d a clear view of stairs, and noticed a young girl with big black eyes, and long thick black hair almost touching her firm round buttocks carrying a bucket to fetch water from building’s water tank, as the water supplies had been stopped through pipes now for two weeks, as their eyes met, she used to smile, Saladin would smile back, but at the bottom of his heart he used curse:

“Traitors can’t live in peace.” Soon he realized his job could become easier if he traps that girl, she’d give secrets about her community and what they think about present situation. But was still confused how tow to start, for him it was bit difficult, as he’d spent many good years of his youth in army barracks and camps surrounded by guys with thick beards and clean chins, he lacked confidence to get started with a girl, and that too of an enemy camp, always prejudices came in way. But the thing he hated most about Bengalis its part. One morning as he was sleeping in his warm blanket, suddenly his eyes opened on a melodious voice, as though a nightingale was singing to announce spring time, he lost control over himself, and walked out of his flat in pajamas without putting slippers in his feet or washing face, he followed the must as though he was a child or rat following the pied piper. The sound came from the fourth floor; he kept climbing up till he reached an apartment with its door open and now melody reaching clearly to his ears, few kids were having cups of tea for their breakfast, an old fat lady lay on her belly on the mattress her white hair in disarray, one of the kids seeing the stranger at this early hour of morning standing right at their doorstep called his grandmother, the old fat lady turned and gazed at Saladin, with force of hands raised her pulpy body stood up and came to him.

“Yes!” she exclaimed with amazement in her eyes and voice.

“Sorry to disturb you;” Saladin said trying to apologize, his tone soft and a pale smile raced down his face: “I just heard that beautiful voice and was unable to control my feet, which have brought me here.”

“Oh yes;” the lady replied, Saladin could see four of her front teeth missing: “my granddaughter is doing her regular practice.”

“Does such a melodious voice require daily practice?” he said, the lady laughed and patting his shoulder said:

“As the belly requires food daily, so the soul requires music full of melody.”

“Ya….ya…..” Saladin replied ignorantly, he was more interested in singer than the singing. “Come in……. come in;” she said moving away from the door post: „have a cup of tea.‟

“No thanks;” Saladin combing his short hair with fingers replied: “I haven’t washed my face.” “And you have forgotten to wear your slippers;” the lady said with a sharp smile pointing towards his bare feet: “anyways come in Bengalis don’t let their guests visiting first time without tea and water; it’s our tradition.” Saladin didn’t want to go in but was unable to refuse such generosity shown by that old lady and walked inside behind her, she offered him a well cushioned wooden chair in the hall, and he pulled it forward and sat. In the room from door ajar he was able to see a young girl playing satire with closed eyes. Saladin recognized she was the same bucket girl.

Kaki;” the old lady spoke slowly, young beauty hearing that opened her eyes and was astonished to see the guy she saw daily as she walked downstairs to fetch water sitting at her home.

“Your voice has brought him hear,” it was again the fat lady to speak; she placed her instrument carefully by the wall stood up and came to the hall with smiling face.

“Ask your mother to bring tea for him,” her grandmother said in compassionate tone.

“Yes barima,” she said fingering the lock of her hair and went to the kitchen where her mother was preparing breakfast, there was no male in the house that increased Saladin’s curiosity as spy and was forced to ask:

“So there are only ladies living in this house?”

“At the moment;” the old lady replied adjusting the white blouse sitting down on mat: “my three sons are out doing revolutionary work, one of them is a student leader Abdul and is planning to lead a protest against the merciless murder of young Bengalis in streets of our Desh, we thought this was our own fuaj protector of our borders but now they’ve started to kill us,” there was pain and courage in her voice, this totally confused young Captain Saladin, he was shocked to know that he was sitting in enemy’s house waiting for tea, his face went pale, but was happy at back of his mind knowing that, this was his first big information after coming to East Pakistan.

“When do they return?” he asked in confusion.

“Sometime;” she said taking a deep cool breath: “days and weeks pass.”

The kids carelessly started to play hide and seek, hiding behind dirty old curtain as old as the fat lady, and rat eaten sofa sets. In the meantime Kaki brought tea in China-clay cups on silver steel tray.

“You are;” Saladin looking at the girl said a pale smile: “the one, who passes daily from my floor having a bucket in hand,” his tone made him completely foolish; her grandmother gave them a quick agitating look.

“Yes;” Kaki replied sitting next to her grandmother, she had a round face nor sparkling beauty neither an ugly duckling, big beautiful black eyes carrying all the Bengali magic that captures soul in that pair of eyes, long neck, and her mango shaped breasts adding plus points to her beauty, she was slim, her thin waxed arms were visible from her sleeveless purple blouse, and she also wore gold earrings and a gold chin with thick pendant.

Another fat middle-aged lady in light blue sari walked in, Saladin was disgraced to see the deep brown belly button seen from the space between blouse and lower part of sari, and she was working in the kitchen, seeing the stranger complained to her mother-in-law:

Barima you know how things are changing and you invite strangers who even don’t look like Bengalis for tea;” her tone was rough and tough, Saladin gazed her with astonishing gestures she continued to talk:

“If anyone in neighborhood comes to know that our whole family would become a saw thumb, either the fuaj would kill us or our own nationalist would shed our blood.” Her statement totally made Saladin uncomfortable.

“Oh my child;” her mother-in-law hold cup of tea in hand replied: “don’t you worry, leave everything upon God, what else is world other than love and trust, life is name of intermingling with other human beings…. Long live Bengali nationalism.” The other lady went back to kitchen murmuring in her lips. Things were becoming unbearable for the young captain; for him staying at a Bengali nationalist’s home was to betray the whole army and the entire country, so he arose from his place and without uttering a word left.

As Saladin reached his flat he found some post thrown inside his flat through open door, he picked two envelopes from ground kept them on his study table and went to bathroom. After taking quick shower and brushing his teeth he came out bare-chested, while a towel rolled up to his knees, went to small space where he prepared morning and evening tea for himself. After having tea of his own hands he dressed up and looked forth into the newly received mail, routine thing asking about situation, he sat down and wrote his early morning discovery of a nationalist family living nearby, three sons involved in treason acts… one named Abdul planning to protest.

As he finished writing Saladin rolled the paper put it in a brown envelope and went out to the bazaar where he knew he would find Lieutenant Ahmed Ali disguised as a cobbler now for quite a few months. Once he was there, Saladin threw his right shoe to him, this brought a smile on cobbler’s bushy face, seeing here and there Saladin passed the envelope secretly, the cobbler didn’t react and kept it inside his wooden box, he usually sat under the palm tree beside the paan hut polishing and mending shoes while keeping strict eye on every individual.

It was evening, Saladin was at his flat when there was breakdown of light, so lightening a candle and placing it on the wooden arm of chair he opened the entrance door for ventilation, he heard footsteps coming in his direction, he become alert thinking the asshole cobbler had made some mistake and nationalist had come to know about him.

“Hello;” he heard a soft voice of female: “are you in there!” Saladin stood up took the candle in his hand and came out in corridor, he was relieved to see Kaki standing before him with plates covered with red cloth in her hands.

“Can I come in?” she asked with a smile. “Oh sure,” he replied.

Barima has sent sweets for you,” she said coming in and passing the plates to him.

“Oh thanks;” Saladin replied with a smile placing the candle again on chair, and took plates from her, his fingers touched hers, this brought a smile of shyness on Kaki’s face.

“Is there any special occasion?” he asked softly.

“No,” she replied putting the lock of hair behind her right ear.

“Then these sweets?” he asked surprisingly going to the small space just beside the room. “That’s our tradition;” she said with excitement: “to send sweets to our new friends.”

“And what do you send to an enemy?” Saladin asked with a sharp smile, this moved Kaki from inside.

“We Bengalis;” she replied nervously: “don’t make enemies by our choice.”

“What’s that nonsense;” Saladin said with some anger in his tone, putting sweets in his utensil: “you always say we Bengalis…… we Bengalis….. Can’t you just say we Pakistanis…!” This again shocked Kaki and she was having other ideas about Saladin now but keeping herself calm replied:

“We tried a lot to be part of Pakistan; but certain Pakistanis hate us just because we are

Bengalis.‟ Saladin brought back the empty plates and handed back to her.

“I must leave now,” she said taking the plates and giving him her back walked out. While eating the sweets Saladin Kept on thinking how could such nice people rebel against the state?

Analysts like Tariq Ali sitting far away from Pakistan were giving political comments which were shaking roots of the country. Growing sections of the urban working class and petty bourgeoisie wanted to go the whole way and over throw the system, but were severely hampered by the lack of suitable political instrument what no observer can deny; however, is that the largely illiterate rural and urban masses were hungry for politics. The December 1970 election thus took on the character of a referendum on the six points; so far as East Pakistan was concerned. The result was a tidal victory for the Awami League. Of the total of 169 seats allocated to East Pakistan in National Assembly. Its 167 seats in the national legislature (a constituent assembly) gave the Bengali nationalists an overall majority to form the central government. The problem for the Pakistani ruling class lay precisely in the fact that even if Mujeeb had been prepared to make concessions, the masses who had voted for him were totally intransigent. Mujeeb was not a particularly shrewd or intelligent leader. The Awami League was a reformist formation par excellence. The tragedy of the Bengali people was that they were led by a party which had no strategy for coming in power, but was force only through series of defensive moves to elaborate tactics to confront new situation. The leaders of suffering had made Bengal desperate. People were prepared to fight and dragged their leaders willingly behind. The other side, in sharp contrast, was preparing for kill, thus wrote Tariq Ali.

“Military operation is not a solution,” cried many intellectuals.

When the country was in chaos, war was on its doorsteps, Kaki’s nineteen years young heart was filled with fragrance of love, there was red blood and rotten human flesh on roads, but red roses bloomed in her heart. She came to Saladin’s flat two days later, this time having a parcel covered with gift paper that had many small, big, white, red, yellow hearts on it.

“What is it?” Saladin asked looking at her dim face.

“Open it,” Kaki pleaded, he tore the gift paper, there was a clock box and as he opened the brown packet Saladin found Kalidas’ ‘Shakuntala’ the best of Bengali literature translated into English. This brought a pale smile to his face but inside his heart he started to burn and cursed Kaki of being infidel and traitor to a Muslim country. As she left happily Saladin threw the very best piece of Bengali literature carelessly on table without even bothering to open it. This was how he was trained at the military camp, regional literature be it Bengalis, Sindhi or in any other language a part from pure English, pure Urdu or pure Arabic was treated with hate and considered blasphemous.

As days passed Kaki started to come closer to Saladin, bringing meal for him, preparing tea in his kitchen, taking care of his laundry, and he allowed her to come closer though doubting her spying for bullshit fucking nationalists, but soon he realized she was innocent and in love with him.

A week later Saladin took advantage of her throwing her on his bed, fondling her mango shaped breasts and pinching her dark brown nipples mercilessly. As he removed her trouser he found a dark bush of pubic hair between her legs and commented:

“Are all Bengali women so dirty!” this offended Kaki a lot, threw him away and rising up hiding he naked body behind the bed sheet asked:

“What do you mean?”

“You haven’t shaved your pubic hair,” he replied, hearing this, her facial expressions changed a bit and with a pale smile replied:

“I’ll shave them on my wedding eve.” Ignoring her comment Saladin came over her lustfully like a hungry dog.

“Ah…!” Kaki moaned in pain as he went inside and tore her virginity, she started to bleed and cried, thinking the pain was unbearable:

“Pull it out, it’s is hurting me,‟ her eyes were filled with tears, but Saladin never stopped he pumped as far and as hard as he could, thinking he was invading an enemy camp, killing every enemy with just one weapon. As the act came to an end Saladin came down from her and lay side to side helplessly in each other’s arms sweating and breathing hard.

During the middle of the week of December army actions became strict than ever, killing people in streets, lashing them, there were two hundred and fifty arrests only from Dhaka just in one week. Demonstrations and processions were tear gassed; young Bengali girls and women were raped and tortured in detention cells. Finally Indian army intervened, the Bengalis stood with them. Pakistan’s whole army was mesmerized, chaos started, wine glasses fell down from hands of sick minded generals. Yahya and his team were utterly helpless to save Jinnah’s Pakistan; even God wasn’t helping a country made in His holy name.

Saladin was laying with Kaki at his flat, the transistor was on, and news about war was coming and going. Soon there would be announcement. The analysts throughout world were saying: the defeat of Pakistan army would traumatize West Pakistan and considerably dent the prestige of armed services. Jinnah and Islam’s Pakistan was nearing death.

“Pakistani forces have surrendered,” a voice came from the transistor, this brought a shocking wave to Saladin’s body he was petrified hearing these words his mind started to wander in wilderness, and he thought he and his army were stabbed in back by ugly looking Bengalis. The news continued: “a treaty has been signed and now there would be new territorial division, this new country would be called Bangladesh.”

“No,” he screamed jumping out the bed.

“What happened?” Kaki asked staring at his naked body.

“Shut up you ugly dirty bitch,” he shouted at her in anger pulling up his pants, she thought someone had stabbed in her hear, bowed her face down, rose up quickly putting her clothes on and outside crying. Saladin’s anger only increased as the news continued, he picked up the transistor and threw it with all his energy on cemented floor, the transistor broke in pieces with a harsh sound like Pakistan!!!

In the streets of this new born country Bangladesh, people started rejoicing and celebrating their independence to which they gave a name “Yuam-e-Nijat” (The Day of Salvation). There were dances and drum beatings, people distributing sweets in joy. Saladin walked down the street with anger, agony and disgrace. A young guy called him from behind:

“Brother happy independence to Bengalis,” and reaching him presented a sweet box.

“Shut up;” Saladin throwing away the box shouted: „you mother fucking evil Bengali, go to hell all you monsters.‟

“You son of a bitch, traitor,” cried that young Bengali, people gathered around both of them.

“He’s a lover of that Pakistan,” young guy told others.

“Kill him,” everyone shouted and started to punch Saladin’s face, kicked him, bet him with shoes and sticks, he was on ground all bleeding, the mob tied ropes in his legs and pulled him towards the round chowk at main bazaar.

“We should burn this evil guy,” cried someone from the mob.

“Yes;” a girl shouted: “Abdul uncle is right we must burn this devil,” it was Kaki who said that,

Saladin slowly opened his eyes, lashed filled with blood, and saw Kaki standing beside her uncle. With a dying pale smile on his face Saladin spat blood on dry muddy ground.

“You fucking whore,” he cried in low tone yet audible to few standing right beside him. “You filthy pig,” said Abdul kicking him between his legs.

“Ah…” he cried, Kaki gave her uncle a tin of kerosene oil and match box, to guys moved forward and tied Saladin up with iron posts of the roundabout, Abdul threw kerosene oil on him, and then lit a match stick and threw it on Saladin, soon he was caught with fire.

“God save me,” he cried loud, but someone from left side threw a burning torch upon him shouting with pleasure:

“Long live Bangladesh…. Long live Bengali nation……”

A strong build guy in his mid-forties entered my office, he had a broad chest and thick moustache under his nose, I stood up shook hand and offered him seat, he sat down and said in firm tone:

“I am Inspector Abdul Aziz of Crime Branch Karachi,” I gave him a worried look and said: “How may I help you?”

“Do you know any lady named Miss: Samreen?” he asked in firm tone, when he took Samreen’s name I thought someone had pulled life out of my body, the first thought that entered my mind was something bad has happened to Samreen.

“Yes,” I replied biting my lower lip: ’if you are talking about Samreem of FTS cafe...” He assured me he was talking about Samreen and asked: “how well you know her?” I was shocked by this statement and asked: “what do you mean?”

“Well I mean,” he said in same tone lightening a cigarette: “you are friends....good friends....or something else.....”

“I think we are good friends,” I replied in agitation, Inspector Abdul Aziz gazed in my face, I started to sweat.

“Should I consider that Miss: Samreen shares problems of her life with you?” he asked puffing the cigarette.

“Yes,” I replied moving my shoulders

“Do you know,” he said letting the smoke to come out from his thick nostrils: “some people are offended by programs and seminars arranged by Miss: Samreen and she constantly gets dire threats?” everything darkened before my eyes and thought some bastard has harmed Samreen.

“Yes, but is she alright?” I asked in curiosity. Inspector Aziz took out a photograph from front pocket of his white shirt and handed it to me, i looked at the photograph carefully, it was of a young guy who must be my age, and he was laying on the floor of a cheap apartment in a pool of blood.

“Who is he?” I asked with curiosity.

“His name is Aslam Ali,” Aziz spoke carelessly: “earlier this morning at six am, we got a tip that Aslam is murdered and his body is in an apartment at Ghas Mandhi, he was a software engineer in some private software house, we recovered a laptop from his apartment and came to known he was assigned to kill Miss: Samreen,” he stopped talking, my head started to spin.

“We are investigating this case,” Aziz’s voice fell on my eardrums like a hammer: “so that we could find out the real culprit, let me share a classified piece of information,” he leaned towards me and said secretly: “he was a sleeper cell working for some extremist group.” I sat thee silently grabbing whatever was thrown to me by the inspector.

“Thank you Mr. Saleem,” Aziz said standing up: “it was nice meeting you,” I stood up and shook hand with him saying: “you are welcome....” he took out a business card from his black leather wallet and passing it to me said: “this my business card if you find anything suspicious around you and Miss: Samreen or any information that you want to share with me, please do contact.”

“Sure, I will,” I said, he started to walk out, after few paces stopped and turned to me and said: “can I give you a suggestion?”

“Yes sir,” I said looking at him.

“If Miss: Samreen really listens to you,” he said in a friendly tone: “then ask her to remain silent because talking on certain issues in this country is considered as an act of blasphemy, to be alive in this country and especially in Karachi, one must keep his eyes and mouth shut.” I stared him with blank face, he walked out, and I sat down on the chair, putting both hands on my head.

I had met Samreen three years ago at her cafe, I was just offered the job in this institute, and had might Imran Zaboon of Kashmir at canteen who teaches literature in this institute, he is a thin and tall guy, with thin dark brown moustache and red face, during his student years he was an active member of a left wing party, he was in front rows propagating communist agenda, and used to write revolutionary couplets and I was told he had been punished of eight lashes for his poetry during Zia regime, one fact about his poetry is though he writes couplets after couplets but has not completed one whole poem in his entire life, he is fond of eating tobacco paans, he was the one who took me to FTS cafe as he was a member there. The cafe is located in an apartment building at Defense View, just opposite Imtiaz Shopping Mall, and on could find Isra University on just the opposite road, Samreen’s apartment cum cafe is on the second floor, it has three rooms and a hall, with shelves of books attached to each wall, the rooms are used for daily discussions, gatherings and readings, while the hall is reserved for special lectures, people feel free to have discussions on politics, role of military, social problems, literature, history, art, drama and occasionally sex. Imran and I reached the FTS at seven thirty pm on one Friday, there were twenty people already sitting in one room, we were greeted by a beautiful round faced lady having bob-cut hair and thin sight glasses covering her deep eyes, she greeted us with smile.

“Miss: Samreen,” Imran said introducing me to her: “meet my friend Saleem, he is newly appointed in our institute as a lecturer of anthropology.”

“Welcome to FTS cafe be at ease,” she said with a smiling facing shaking my hand.

“Thank you Mam,” I said with a smile.

“Please come here and sit,” she guided us to the room: “today we are discussing about transgender and she-males.” We sat down on the carpeted floor a she-male named Razi stood in the center, her face was covered with face powder and lips were under thick red lipstick. Razi started narrating her life story:

“I was born as a complete male in a middle class family of Karachi, we three siblings and life was moving smoothly, my father had passed away when I was just a teenager, I was the youngest of all, my elder brother Shahid was in Dubai, while my sister Shahnaz after completing her gradation got a teaching job at a government school, as for me I complete my degree in computer engineering and got a job in a private firm, ours was a traditional religious family, but don’t know why my sister refused to marry.....days kept on passing and my mother was diagnosed as a cancer patient. I used to pray five times a day, fast for whole month of Ramadhan and recited the holy Quran.....” we were served coffee and cookies by a young lady, suddenly my eyes met Samreen’s, she passed a smile, I too gave her a smile and bowed my head, I was having strange feelings for her, Razi continued with the story: “my life changed suddenly,” Razi paused for a while puffed from cigarette and sipped from tea and then said: “Shahnaz had a friend Hameeda, a good looking girl, having round white face, good pair of breasts, dark black thick hair and almond eyes. At that time I was working in a multi-national company SoftTech, actually a software house as a junior software engineer, since Hameeda was Shahnaz close friend, she used to visit daily our flat which at that time was in Korangi, my father had died year ago in target killing and Shahid was at Qatar, Shahnaz told me that Hameeda was interested in me, mother and she also want her to be my bride,” at this point sadness overshadowed Razi, everyone stared at she-male’s face her eyes shining, Razi threw the butt of cigarette and lightened another.

“Seeing;” Razi said letting the smoke out from nostrils like a dragon: “my family’s interest in this girl I agreed to marry Hameeda, it was a normal middle-class wedding fest,” there came a little pause and then Razi said:

“I never thought marriage will change my life.” I was served a cup of coffee by Samreen with a smile, I too gave her a smile.

“First;” Razi spoke again with pain in tone: “few weeks were very delightful, there was ample sex between me and my new wife, she was more trained at sex than me knowing all the techniques to erect me and sometimes her little moans and cries during the act used to make me a crazy wild beast pumping harder and harder in her. Two weeks later she told me to use condoms for she didn’t want to get pregnant so early and wanted to enjoy a complete sex life before having a baby, I agreed with her even on that point. After one month of our marriage my mother died, now we three me, Hameeda and Shahnaz lived together, I earned enough from my job while both ladies remained at home.” Razi stopped talking to take break.

“One day suddenly;” Razi spoke again: “riots broke in Karachi after a bomb blast, and I hurriedly left my office, though roads were blocked, tires torched, people killed but I found my way out, I escaped from all that carrying all the tension of world in my mind, and the only thing I wanted was to reach home safely. I reached home at least three hours before my regular timing, the main door was locked but I’d the master key of enter lock, swiftly opened the door as I wanted to give surprise to Hameeda and Shahnaz, so walked in silently, doors of living rooms were opened, and as I leaned my head inside Shahnaz’s room I was shocked and couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, darkness came before my eyes and head started to spin. My sister was all over my wife, both naked, kissing, pressing and fingering each other, moaning in delight and pleasure, Hamada’s eyes were closed, and Shahnaz went between her legs.” Razi became silent eyes filled with tears.

“It;” Razi spoke again after sobbing: “was a horrifying scene for me tears ran down to my cheeks, a thought came in my mind that perhaps I’m not man enough to satisfy my wife, without making any noise left the house, threw my cell phone away in anger, world ended for me, I wanted death, and salvation from such a grieve pain, and was walking aimlessly on road with just one question in my mind: Am I impotent?” There was a pause this time for longer duration.

“At bazaar a eunuch approached me begging money, she was Nooran my guru, I asked her to spend time with me, she said at my place or hers? I replied at hers, for that whole nigh we had sex, she was terrific at blow job, and then I asked Nooran that I wanted to be one of them. At first Nooran was mesmerized but then agreed, helped me in my operation of changing sex, as my penis and testicles were removed I lost my manhood and never returned to Hammeda and Shahnaz now for four years.” As Razi stopped telling the story silence came all over the room. But in that silence my eyes followed Samreen, I thought she was the one whom I have been searching for years, I have come again and again to this earth to find her, I thought that she was my desired Sita...my Chelopetra....and my Laila..... For centuries I have taken births and rebirths for her, people started discussing about Razi’s life but I was lost in thoughts of Samreen, her bright eyes were injuring my soul....we were still sitting, when we heard shouts and screams coming from outside, everyone inside the apartment was petrified hearing a scream:

“This is an Islamic state you rascals...” and we started to murmur, I stared at Imran fear was common in our eyes, we heard another scream this time much closer: “woe to these enemies of Islam....” and then: “stop spreading immorality.....” some ten goons entered the cafe, sticks in their hands, their faces covered with black masks, they started damaging the furniture and potriates hanging on the walls two of them moved to book shelves.

“Stop it,” Samreen cried, we were terrified by this sudden attack, not were unable to react immediately.

“Come on leave this dirty place you bastards,” a fatty screamed at us pointing his stick, and then abused Samreen.

“It is our fundamental right to discuss on different issues,” Samreen stood in the center and shouted, the fatty punched her in her belly, she cried: “aaah....!!” I closed my eyes and tried to feel the pain as though I was punched, I don’t know how I got the strength and moved towards that fatty, someone gave me a hard below on my head and felt everything was spinning. When I was back to conscious I found myself laying on bed in a private clinic, Imran stood beside me, while Samreen was laying on the next bed, I was dripped.

“What has happened to Samreen?” I asked from Imran in broken tone.

“Nothing,” he replied: “she has given you blood,” hearing this I looked towards Samreen, she gave me a pale smile, I too smiled......

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